Back surgery is an operation to change a patient’s anatomy, such as removing a herniated disc or straightening the spine. The goal of back surgery is to relieve pain a patient experiences in their back because of a birth defect or injury.
Back surgery is generally considered only after a patient continues to experience pain after several months of undergoing non-surgical treatment options. Some common types of back surgery include:
- Spinal Fusion: The most common form of back surgery, spinal fusion involves joining back vertebrae together to limit how far nerves can stretch.
- Laminectomy: The surgeon removes parts of the bone, bone spurs, or ligaments in the back to relieve pressure on spinal nerves.
- Foraminotomy: The surgeon cuts away bone at the sides of the vertebrae to widen the space where nerves exit your spine to relieve nerve pain.
- Diskectomy: The surgeon removes all or part of a disk that has slipped out of place and is pressing on a spinal nerve causing pain.
- Disk Replacement: The surgeon removes the damaged spinal disk and inserts an artificial one between the vertebrae.
- Interlaminar Implant: The surgeon implants a U-shaped device between two vertebrae to ease pressure on spinal nerves.
The primary goal of back surgery is to reduce or eliminate pain, however, it may also have other positive effects including:
- Better physical health;
- Increased physical activity and range of motion;
- Ability to return to work;
- Increased work productivity; and
- Ability to reduce medications.
Yes. Like any surgery, back surgery does have risks, including:
- Reoccurring pain;
- Reaction to drugs given during surgery such as anesthesia;
- Blood clot;
- Heart attack;
- Nerve damage, which can result in additional pain, loss of bladder control, or paralysis; and
- Recurrent herniated disks.
Yes. A back surgeon could be subject to a claim of medical malpractice if they are negligent during the surgery or negligent in failing to disclose required information to the patient.
Negligence in the context of medical malpractice refers to the surgeon failing to meet the general standard of medical care required by law and the medical community. Some examples of potential negligence caused by a back surgeon include:
- Performing the wrong type of back operation on the patient;
- Failing to remove medical equipment from the surgical incision;
- Leaving the back wound untreated;
- Prescribing the wrong medication or the right medication in the wrong dosage;
- Failing to recognize a medical complication from the surgery;
- Failing to fully inform the patient of all risks before obtaining consent for the procedure; or
- Recommending a procedure when it is ill-advised or not informing the patient of viable alternative procedures.
A plaintiff suing for medical malpractice for a botched back surgery must prove:
- The surgeon owed the patient a duty to protect them from unnecessary harm related to the surgery;
- The surgeon violated that duty by operating below reasonable medical standards;
- The patient was injured because of the surgeon’s actions; and
- The patient’s injury was a foreseeable consequence of the surgeon’s conduct.
Medical malpractice cases can be quite complicated and involve extensive amounts of physical evidence and expert testimony. If you have had complications from your back surgery, you should contact a skilled personal injury lawyer to find out if you have a potential claim for malpractice. An experienced personal injury attorney can compile medical records, depose material witnesses, hire medical experts, and represent you in court.